Each edition of Council Magazine we choose one local government from across Australia to shine a spotlight on. Whether it’s new infrastructure, an innovative technology project, a leading sustainability initiative or a community connection, we want to highlight the best of our local governments and share some valuable knowledge to other place makers across our nation. This edition, we spoke to Kangaroo Island Council to learn more about this unique LGA, iconic holiday destination and nature rich island.

Quick facts

What is the population size and land area of Kangaroo Island Council?

Kangaroo Island has a population of 5,108 people (according to the 2021 Census by Australia Bureau of Statistics), and covers an area of 4,405km. Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia, with a coastline that spans 509km and some of the best beaches in Australia. National and conservation parks cover one-third of Kangaroo Island, making it one of Australia’s most iconic national landscapes with a wealth of nature- based experiences.

How many employees work at Kangaroo island council?

Approximately 60 full-time employees work for the Kangaroo Island Council.

Who is the mayor?

The Mayor of Kangaroo Island is Michael Pengilly, who brings with him a rich pedigree of public service. Mayor Pengilly was the Chairman of many boards, including the South Australian Country Fire Service, Hills Mallee and Southern Regional Health Service, Kangaroo Island Hospital, and the Pest Plant Control Board.

First elected Mayor of Kangaroo Island in 2003, Mayor Pengilly was elected to the South Australian State Parliament in 2006, representing the Lower House electorate Finniss.

He retired from State Parliament in 2018 and was re-elected the same year as Kangaroo Island’s Mayor. Born and raised on Kangaroo Island, Mayor Pengilly farms a property with his wife Jan near Emu Bay.

Who is the CEO?

Greg Georgopoulos is the CEO of Kangaroo Island Council and has worked in complex high-level executive leadership and major municipal and community projects within local government and the private sector for over 25 years.

Mr Georgopoulos has significant success in strategic stakeholder and partnership opportunities at a local, Federal and State Government level on key municipal projects and community programs following the 2019/2020 bushfires.

Recently, his key focus has been on executive leadership, strategic government relationships, sustainability, investment attraction and innovation in service delivery.

He has been pivotal in developing and delivering Council’s strategic, operational, financial and master plans – inspiring staff to achieve innovative and tangible outcomes. Mr Georgopoulos’ tertiary qualifications include a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Civil Engineering.

What is the Council’s annual budget?

The Kangaroo Island Council adopted the Annual Business Plan and Budget for 2022-2023 at its July 2022 meeting, following community consultation and public submissions. The annual Budget for 2022-2023 is $20,940,000.

What is the breakdown of spending for the budget year ahead?

The economic impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing recovery from the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires have continued to influence the Council’s Budget and operations. Kangaroo Island Council is committed to upgrading its infrastructure assets and delivering quality core services while managing debt.

Council will commence the following projects in the Financial Year 2022-23:

  • A fully costed and prioritised whole-of-island natural disaster risk mitigation plan (100 per cent grant- funded) – $290,000
  • New playground equipment at American River, Penneshaw and Emu Bay – $270,000
  • Installation of beach stairs at Baudin Beach and Pennington Bay – $335,000
  • Extension of the Community Waste Management System (CWMS) infrastructure in Kingscote – $543,000
  • Stage 2 of Council’s Five-Year Footpath program – $250,000
  • Toilet upgrade at Reeves Point and Baudin Beach – $100,000
  • Cemetery Management Program – $25,000
  • Reseal and renewal of Birchmore Road, Sea Eagle Way, Playford Highway and South Coast Road – $1 million

Diving deeper

What is Kangaroo Island Council’s vision for the community and its future?

Kangaroo Island Council’s vision is a confident and cohesive community supported to rebuild the region’s unique island environment, with a strengthening economy led by primary production and tourism.

Council is working hard to help the community build back stronger from the 2018 drought, Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19. With the initial investment from the Federal and State Governments during the bushfire recovery effort, Council is building momentum for further private investment that creates jobs and resilient communities.

Council supports Kangaroo Island to be open for business and encourages projects that bring local job outcomes, prosperity and business opportunities, giving the community and Council the capacity to be financially sustainable into the future.

Kangaroo Island Council’s growth indicators are strong:

  • Kangaroo Island’s GPD was $282 million as of 30 June 2021, up 13.6 per cent from $248 million in 2020 (Regional Development Australia)
  • Since March 2021, Council has received 410 development applications and lodged 360 development applications (as of 26 April 2022), worth nearly $100 million
  • The review of property values by the SA Valuer-General for Financial Year 2023 resulted in an average increase across all properties on Kangaroo Island by 22 per cent
  • Despite the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic the region’s tourism sector is experiencing a boom
  • Results from Kangaroo Island’s Regional Tourism Strategy reveal that the 2025 target equalled $199
    million and the 2021 Actual equalled $239 million

What makes the Kangaroo Island Council area special?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are moving to regional Australia from major capital cities for the lifestyle and increasingly diverse employment and career opportunities; Kangaroo Island is no different. It has spectacular coastlines and beaches, stunning rural vistas, prime agricultural land, pristine waterways, world-class wineries, restaurants, and visitor experiences.

Best known as a ‘Zoo without Fences’, kangaroos, sea lions, koalas, echidnas, wallabies, goannas, and marine mammals are plentiful, and there are many species of birdlife.

Many people come to the island to reconnect with nature and each other, slow down and rediscover the things that matter in life, with opportunities abound on the island for business development, growth and innovation.

What are some of the island’s unique challenges, and how does Council overcome these?

The number of rateable properties on Kangaroo Island is approximately 5,600 – yet Kangaroo Island Council services a land area six times the size of Singapore that hosts about 200,000 tourists and visitors annually.

The key challenges faced in servicing a remote island community include maintenance and upgrades to road infrastructure, accessibility of medical and professional services, water security and freight costs.

In response, Council has partnered with the State and Federal Governments to fund critical public infrastructure that supports further private investment and unlocks economic activity on the island.

Key projects:

  • Road infrastructure: Hog Bay Road and the Playford Highway Upgrade, valued at $40 million. Kangaroo Island’s 4,405km2 contains 1,362km of roads, of which 81 per cent are unsealed. The upgrade of Hog Bay Road and Playford Highway enhances the main arterial route along the ‘backbone’ of the island, enhancing bushfire resilience while improving tourism routes and freight access.
  • Waterproofing the island: SA Water Desalination Plant and Pipeline, valued at $67 million. SA Water is constructing a new seawater desalination plant and a 50km pipeline from Penneshaw to Kingscote, providing connectivity to several coastal townships that do not currently have mains water available. The new plant will produce 80 per cent of the island’s water requirements, supporting further economic investment by lowering water costs and increasing efficiency.
  • Freight costs and accessibility: new SeaLink Ferries and Upgrade of Cape Jervis and Penneshaw Terminals, valued at $72 million. SeaLink has committed a $50 million investment in new drive-on ferries, with an additional $22 million commitment from the State Government to upgrade the ferry terminals at Cape Jervis & Penneshaw.
  • The new SeaLink contract sees a significant reduction in the cost of travel and freight for residents and businesses – supporting development in housing and infrastructure on the island, with a 40 per cent increase in services provided over the year and a 78 per cent reduction in Kangaroo Island resident adult and child fares (introduced from March 2022).
  • Access to medical services: expansion of Kangaroo Island Health Service – Stage 1, valued at $10 million. The master plan for the expansion of the Kangaroo Island Hospital has multiple long-term stages. The first stage will create multiple accommodation units for nursing staff, addressing a critical shortage in personnel. A new aged care facility is included in the development’s first stage, to address the growing care demands of an ageing population.

How is Kangaroo Island Council addressing climate change and reaching sustainability goals?

The Kangaroo Island Coastal Hazard Strategy was developed by combining technical analysis with an extensive engagement process.

The strategy outlines the erosion and inundation hazard risk assessment and includes a digital mapping tool showing potential future erosion and inundation for each settlement.

Resilient Hills & Coasts Climate Change Project is a collaborative, cross-sector partnership between all levels of government within the region, to strengthen the resilience of communities, economies and natural and built environments to a changing climate. The partnership developed the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Kangaroo Island, which Council is now implementing.

Council also recognises that nature and tourism are strong allies, ecotourism is a tool for economic development, and that sustainability is an increasing consideration for travellers.

Accordingly, Council is working with the Kangaroo Island Tourism Alliance to achieve ECO Destination Certification.

How has the island recovered from the devastating 2019-2020 BUSHFIRES?

In response to the bushfires, Council established the KI Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund and distributed almost $6 million to those impacted by the 2019-2020 disaster. The Fund was administered by Council staff, with 100 per cent of proceeds allocated to those in need.

Through the recovery effort Council is focused on rebuilding community assets and infrastructure destroyed in the 2019-20 bushfires.

Two years into the recovery process and the island is building back stronger, a testament to the strength and resilience of the community, many of whom are still rebuilding homes, farms and businesses.

Although the island suffered biodiversity losses – the land is regenerating – with once fire damaged land now covered with new greenery.

How is Council preparing for future extreme weather events?

Soon after the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, Kangaroo Island Council commissioned the Ten Rivers report to provide analysis and advice on fire protection actions for the island’s townships and settlements.

Kangaroo Island Council is also leading the island-wide Natural Disaster Mitigation Project. The outcomes of this project include a prioritised, fully costed whole-of-Island Action Plan aligned to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework to better prepare the local community for natural disasters.

What is an exciting community program or initiative Council has in the future or already underway?

The Passport to Recovery Program is a unique community initiative bringing together tourism and citizen science to promote positive environmental and economic outcomes on Kangaroo Island.

This program focuses on citizens working with scientists, industry and government to monitor and evaluate restoration and recovery, while supporting tourism, enhancing the local economy and promoting policy change. Flinders University leads this program in support of Council and Kangaroo Island Landscape Board.

Kangaroo Island is also getting a 3ha native oyster reef as part of a national marine initiative aiming to bring back shellfish reefs from the brink of extinction. Shellfish reefs once thrived along the northern Kangaroo Island bays, providing home, feeding and breeding grounds to hundreds of marine species.

Rebuilding these reefs will provide an economic boost during the construction phase and ongoing opportunities for the local community in recreational fishing, tourism, and science and research.

The Nature Conservancy is delivering this project with support from Council and the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board.

Can you tell us about an interesting urban development project?

Council is in the process of delivering Stage 1 of the Kangaroo Island Town Centres Project, part of an $8 million plan to upgrade the region’s townships. About 50 people will work on the project, which brings 170 extra long- term jobs and involves a significant spruce up of the Kingscote, Penneshaw,  American River and Parndana townships.

This work will help attract new investment, stimulate economic development and encourage businesses to set up on the island. The town centre upgrades will take about four years over three stages.

Council has secured $2 million for the first stage from the State and Federal Governments, applied to the Federal Government for $2.5 million for the second phase through the Building Better Regions Fund, and is seeking public and private investment for the project’s final $3.5 million stage.

How is Kangaroo Island Council embracing digitisation and growing its technological capabilities?

In 2022, residents, visitors and businesses will benefit from a more reliable communication network thanks to a $2.6 million grant to build open- access towers. Swoop (formerly Beam Internet) is building eleven advanced fixed wireless towers across Kangaroo Island.

In addition, Telstra Corporation Limited, in partnership with Kangaroo Island Council, secured $1,758,232 in funding from the Black Summer grant program to construct two new mobile towers at Stokes Bay and American River.

Council has endorsed an Information Technology Roadmap that is aligned with its Information Technology Strategy, outlining hardware and software upgrades.

Kangaroo Island is also moving toward cloud-based technologies to improve efficiencies in processing customer requests and payments, with this work will continue into Financial Year 2023 with the view of improving customer experience through Council’s digital channels.

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